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Story by H. A. Fleming (Read author interview) June 15, 2004

I found a body. She was a local girl, but no one I knew. You see, I like to watch those forensic shows on television late at night and read cheap true crime books on long plane trips, so when I found the body pale and naked with dark wet leaves stuck to it— it wasn’t as disturbing as you might think.

I didn’t stop to report it, I know how that must sound, but my cell phone was low on batteries and I was already late for work at McGee’s Pub. I was cutting through the fields behind the strip mall and I saw something over by the drainage basin. It was a foot poking out between the tall grasses. Don’t worry, it wasn’t just a foot, the white expanse of a leg and then another came into view as I approached.

I knew right away this wasn’t the crime scene. How? Well there wasn’t any blood spatter, or sign of a struggle. It was a dumpsite, one that wasn’t likely to be discovered right away. This is important. The killer could have buried his victim, or heaved the body from his car into a parking lot for everyone to see. No, he was buying a few days, but he did eventually want to see his work in the papers. They often return to dumpsites like this, to relive what they’ve done.

I knew that after I finished bar tending I’d come back. All through the night I kept thinking of the body as I made the drinks.

Ligature marks on the neck and wrists. Duct tape across the mouth. Stab wounds, quite a few so it was obviously the cause of death, but not so many stab marks as to signify the extreme rage saved only for victims they know.

I tried to flirt with the girls and remember their favorite drinks, but I kept wondering about the position of the body, lying on its back with its arm draped over the eyes like it was too bright out, like one might do sleeping late on a Sunday.

On my way out my boss grabbed me and asked if I was all right. I said I was. I shoved my tips into the waistband of my jeans and left.

While walking through the wet high grass I kept hoping no one else had found her. I know that sounds terrible but what would it matter if she was there for the night—suppose I wasn’t late and didn’t cut through the fields, suppose I had finished college and was now working New York, the body would still be there undiscovered waiting for someone else to find it, maybe for months until the flesh rotted off into the earth taking with it the DNA under the fingernails, the fibers from the rope, the tiny wisps of hair pulled out at the root. If you think of it that way, what are a few hours?

I looked at the body for some time before I heard someone moving towards me in the brush. It was him, I was sure of it. I looked him in the eye. I recognized the look, the look I had seen in black and white staring up at me from the pages of books, from the blue light of television screens. I felt nothing.

I could see he wasn’t sure what to do yet, so I stood at the foot of the body and waited. As I looked at him some sort of understanding passed between us; he would let me live and I would pretend this never happened.

That was years ago but I saw his face again when I bought a book on serial killers for the flight down. The picture is grainy and he’s only a blurb. I read his paragraph over and over. Do you want to read it for yourself? Here, hold this for me; I know I have the book in my bag somewhere.

About the Author

H. A. Fleming lives in New York. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied creative writing. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Barcelona Review, Carve Magazine, Literary Potpourri, Word Riot, Flashquake, The Vestal Review, and other journals.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Four

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